Wilson’s Wisdom: Paul Cook must make some room for his streamlined Pompey squad

Pompey boss Paul Cook. Picture: Colin Farmery
Pompey boss Paul Cook. Picture: Colin Farmery

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The Pompey numbers game is in full flow.

Soon after his appointment, Paul Cook made it clear he wanted to operate with a streamlined squad in his first season at Fratton Park.

And he has embarked on an extensive overhaul in his first few weeks at the helm.

At the last count, Pompey had brought in seven new recruits and had 20 signed professionals jetting off to Portugal – and that does not include the three youngsters who penned their first deals.

Unless Cook has had a change of heart in just over a month, he has now reached his target.

At the time, he said: ‘We might be looking at 20 and that may go up to 24 with the younger lads.

‘But it may even be as low as 18 if those youngsters have a good pre-season.’

Clearly his work is not done.

The balance does not look right yet and I’m sure he doesn’t need me to point that out.

One obvious problem is he doesn’t have a recognised right-back yet.

Adam Webster could do a job there but he proved towards the end of last season his best position is at centre-back.

At present, Cook only has one genuine left-back in Enda Stevens and even the centre of defence looks a bit light at the moment.

Paul Robinson, Christian Burgess, Johnnny Ertl and Webster look to be the candidates for those places with Jack Whatmough ruled out until at least Christmas with injury.

Up front, there are not too many options either – with Matt Tubbs and Conor Chaplin the only out-and-out strikers on the books, although Adam McGurk could probably do a job there.

It’s in midfield there is an abundance of riches.

James Dunne, Nigel Atangana, Andy Barcham, Danny Hollands and Ben Close have been joined by Kal Naismith, Gary Roberts, Adam Barton, Kyle Bennett and McGurk.

And at the time of writing, it seems he is keen to add Michael Doyle to that party.

Perhaps the only area that doesn’t need addressing is in goal with Paul Jones and Michael Poke at his disposal.

With Cook expected to employ a 4-2-3-1 formation, it stands to reason more midfielders are needed in the squad.

But it’s hard to ignore the prospect there could be more midfield departures before Cook fills in the other gaps in his squad.

If he is sticking by his orginal estimate – and of course, these things can often change – it probably means he needs to shift at least three players out.

By my reckoning, Cook needs a right-back, a centre-back (ideally one who can also provide cover at full-back) and at least one striker – possibly two.

So where exactly does that leave Dunne, Hollands, Ertl, Atangana, Barcham and Close?

Perhaps Cook has already made up his mind and is in the process of attempting to move along those who are not part of his plans to make room for others.

Alternatively, he may see who shapes up in pre-season and will leave the trimming until he has his own players in.

There will be more additions before the first game in August but we can probably assume there will be some more departures too.